Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More on Justice, Inc.

Yesterday, I blogged about a Sunday New York Times article about the economic impact of locking people up (or, more precisely, not locking so many people up). A related article appears in today's Times (via TalkLeft). It deals with another part of the criminal justice system that proves profitable some folks - the bail bond business. Although the concept of bond and bondsmen dates back to olde England, the modern bail-for-profit business is uniquely American:

Other countries almost universally reject and condemn Mr. Spath’s trade, in which defendants who are presumed innocent but cannot make bail on their own pay an outsider a nonrefundable fee for their freedom.

'It’s a very American invention,' John Goldkamp, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, said of the commercial bail bond system. 'It’s really the only place in the criminal justice system where a liberty decision is governed by a profit-making businessman who will or will not take your business.'
It's not a universally beloved peculiarity - four states have done away with the practice, in addition to the federal government. It attracts scorn from both sides of the criminal aisle, yet is persists, like so many things do, 'cause there's money to be made. It's the American way!

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